How To Use IN, AT And ON – Prepositions In English Grammar

Lesson summary

In this English lesson you will learn how to use the English prepositions IN, AT & ON. (Includes example sentences.)

Video transcript

Prepositions. Prepositions. Prepositions. These are little words in English that if used incorrectly can completely change the meaning of a sentence.

 

For example, look at this picture. We can say ‘The person is in the car.’ But many students like to say ‘The person is on the car.’ But if you say ‘The person is on the car’, this is what it means. And I don’t think that most people would like to drive like that, right?

 

So in today’s video you will learn the basics of how to use three prepositions ‘in’, ‘at’ and ‘on’. And make sure you watch until the end of the video because there will be a quiz to test your understanding. Are you ready? Let’s go!

 

What is a preposition?

The first thing we need to talk about today is what a preposition is. A preposition is a word that we use in English to connect a noun, a noun phrase or a pronoun to another word. And when using a preposition, we normally put the preposition before the noun, the noun phrase or the pronoun.

 

There are many prepositions in English. Some of the most common ones are ‘of’, ‘with’, ‘from’, ‘by’, ‘about’, ‘under’, ‘over’ and of course ‘in’, ‘at’ and ‘on’ which we will be talking about today.

 

How to use ‘in’

Let’s look at ‘in’ first. The first use of ‘in’ is to talk about parts of the day. For example, ‘I wake up early in the morning.’ She goes to work in the afternoon. Or ‘They go to the gym in the evening.’

 

Note here how we’re not saying a specific time like 10am, 1pm, 3pm. We are talking about the part of the day. For example, ‘the morning’. The afternoon. The evening.

 

But we normally use ‘at’ when we’re talking about night. For example, ‘I got home late at night.’

 

The second use of ‘in’ is for cities and countries. For example, ‘He is in Australia.’ She lives in New York. They were born in China.

 

The third use of ‘in’ is when we’re talking about months. For example, ‘His birthday is in April.’ She is going on holiday in July. Or ‘Christmas is in December.’

 

The fourth of use of ‘in’ is when we’re talking about where we are. Normally when we’re inside something.

 

Normally we use ‘at’ when we’re talking about our location, where we are. But sometimes, especially if you want to show that you’re inside something, we use the preposition ‘in’. For example, right now I am in my studio.

 

We use ‘in’ because I am inside it. Above me is a ceiling and around me there are walls. Some other examples could be ‘He is in the lounge room.’ Or ‘He is in his car.’

 

Just remember, when using ‘in’, normally the subject has to be inside something.

 

So in summary, we use ‘in’ when we’re talking about parts of the day, cities or countries, months of the year and when you’re describing where you are. Normally, when you are inside something.

 

How to use ‘on’

Okay now let’s talk about ‘on’. The first use of ‘on’ is when we’re talking about days. For example, ‘Do you work on Fridays?’ Can we meet on Sunday?

 

We can also use ‘on’ when we’re talking about special days. For example, ‘What are you doing on Christmas Day?’ Or ‘Are you free on New Year’s Day?’

 

The second use of ‘on’ is for talking about transport. For example, ‘He is on the bus.’ They are on the train. I am on the tram. We normally use ‘on’ with transport that you can walk around in. For example, if you’re on a bus, you can stand up and you can walk around.

 

But with a car, for example, we use ‘in’ because when you’re in a car, you can’t really walk around. If you stand up, you’ll hit your head, right? You can’t really walk around.

 

The third use of ‘on’ is when something is above something else and those two things are touching. For example, ‘The laptop is on the table.’ This means the laptop is above the table and the table and the laptop, they are touching.

 

Another example could be ‘The books are on the table.’ The books are above the table and the books are touching the table. So in summary, we use ‘on’ for days, for transport and when something is above something else and those two things are touching.

 

Oh! And a common mistake with ‘on’ is when students like to say, ‘I am on the taxi.’ But remember in the intro, I showed you what ‘on’ means. So remember, with a taxi or with a car, you need to say ‘in’. For example, ‘I am in the car.’ Or ‘He is in the taxi.’

 

How to use ‘at’

Okay now let’s talk about how we use ‘at’. The first of use ‘at’ is when we’re talking about specific times of the day.

 

And note here how I said ‘specific times of the day’, not ‘parts of the day’ because remember if you’re talking about parts of the day, we need to use ‘in’.

 

Some examples of using ‘at’ with specific times could be ‘I start work at 10am.’ Or ‘Are you free at 7pm?’

 

The second use of ‘at’ is when we’re talking about location or you want to show where something or someone is. For example, ‘I am at home.’ Or ‘Are you at university?’

 

Now I know what you’re saying. You’re saying ‘Shane, what’s the difference between “at” and “in” for location? For example, what’s the difference between “I am at home” and “I am in my room”?’

 

Let’s look at ‘I am at home’ first. Let’s pretend this is your home. You have a house and you have some land around your house. You have a garden.

 

When we say ‘at’, it is used to show a point or a location. So if we say ‘I am at home’, that means you are somewhere here. Maybe you are inside your home. Maybe you are outside your home. We don’t know. But what we do know is you are somewhere here.

 

But if you say ‘I am in my room’, that means you are inside your room. We know 100% that you are inside your room and you are not outside

 

Quiz

Okay, now you have learned the basics of how to use the prepositions ‘in’, ‘at’, and ‘on’ in English grammar. So now let’s have a little quiz to test your understanding. I will show you some sentences and I want you to fill in the missing word with either ‘in’, ‘at’ or ‘on’. Are you ready? Let’s go!

 

Number one. Your birthday is in, at or on June? And the correct answer is ‘Your birthday is in June.’ We use ‘in’ with months.

 

Number two. His appointment is at, in or on 11am? And the correct answer is ‘His appointment is at 11am.’ ‘At’ with specific times.

 

Number three. John’s birthday is at, on or in the 1st of February? And the correct answer is ‘John’s birthday is on the 1st of February.’ We use ‘on’ with specific days.

 

Number four. They live in, at or on New York? And the correct answer is ‘They live in New York.’ We use ‘in’ with cities.

 

Number five. They are in, at or on New York? And the correct answer is ‘They are in New York.’ We use ‘in’ with cities.

 

Number six. She is in, at or on home? The correct answer is ‘She is at home.’ We use ‘at’ with specific locations.

 

Number seven. Fred arrived in, at or on 10am? And the correct answer is ‘Fred arrived at 10am.’ We use ‘at’ with specific times.

 

Number eight. The bus leaves at 7pm at, on or in Monday? And the correct answer is ‘The bus leaves at 7pm on Monday.’ We use ‘on’ with specific days.

 

Number nine. Do you wake up early in, at or on the morning? And the correct answer is ‘Do you wake up early in the morning?’ We use ‘in’ with specific parts of the day.

 

Last question. Question number ten. He likes to stay up late in, at or on night? And the correct answer is ‘He likes to stay up late at night.’ Remember, normally we use ‘in’ for specific parts of the day but with ‘night’, we normally say ‘at’.

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